My sister-in-law posted a link to this article on Facebook the other day. I can’t understand why. Here are my comments upon reading this essay. Red are my comments and Blue are biblical and historic quotations.
Link to original post http://archielevine.blogspot.com/2008/11/traditional-marriage-perverts-tradition.html
Monday, November 03, 2008
Traditional Marriage Perverts the Tradition of Marriage
A brilliant playwright (and close personal friend of mine) recently sent this editorial out regarding Prop 8. I thought I’d share.
Traditional Marriage Perverts the Tradition of Marriage
by Jeff Goode (Californian)
About a decade ago, as a young playwright, I was hired to write a script for the Renaissance Festival of Kansas City. It was a period piece about knights and jousts and intrigues of the court, building up to a lavish royal wedding between a prince and a princess, restoring peace to the troubled land.
This was one of my first professional writing assignments, so I was really excited about doing all the research and making sure that everything was historically accurate, especially the royal wedding which needed to follow all the traditions exactly.
Over a summer of research, I learned a lot of surprising facts about the history of marriage and weddings, but by far the most shocking discovery of all was that the tradition of marriage-as-we-know-it simply did not exist in those days. Almost everything we have come to associate with marriage and weddings—the white dress, the holy vows, the fancy cake and the birdseed—dates back a mere 50 or 100 years at the most. In many cases less.
The purpose of marriage and the traditions of marriage are two different issues. The author misses the point that marriage traditions are different around the world and thru history but the fact that marriage is a world-wide phenomenon is never explained is this essay. As you will see in the following paragraph the author attempts to force supporters of marriage to defend every practice associated with it throughout history. That fallen men apart from God can devise new ways of perverting something that God intended for our good is no surprise to us as Christians. This after-all is the reason why we oppose gay marriage; sinful men are trying to pervert something God gave us for our good and twist it into something that is so disfigured it is virtually unrecognizable. Gay marriage is an attack on God.
And the handful of traditions that do go back farther than that are, frankly, horrifying. The tossing of the garter, for example, evolved from a 14th Century tradition of ripping the clothing off of the bride’s body as she left the ceremony in order to “loosen her up” for the wedding night. Wedding guests fought over the choicest bits of undergarment, with the garter being the greatest prize.
Savvy brides got in the habit of carrying extra garters in their bodice to throw to the male guests in hopes of escaping the ceremony with some shred of modesty intact! It turns out that marriage, in days of old, was a barbaric custom which was little more than a crude exchange of livestock at its most civilized, and a little less than ritualized abduction at its worst. That’s why you’ll find no reference to white weddings in the Bible, or the union of one man and one woman.
This statement is false and easily disprove by such Scriptures as those quoted below.
Because up until fairly recently, there was nothing religious about it.
For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. Genesis 2:24 When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went into the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan. 2 Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there. 3 Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?” 4 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’ 6 So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” 7 “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?” 8 Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.“7 10 The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.” Matthew 19:1-10
You will of course find plenty of biblical bigamy, practiced by even the most godly of heroes—Noah, Abraham, David, Solomon—because that’s what marriage was in those days. Even in more enlightened New Testament times, the only wedding worth mentioning (the one at Cana) is notable only for the miraculous amount of wine consumed.
According to the biblical account, Noah had one wife. And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives entered the ark to escape the waters of the flood. Genesis 7:7 Abraham disobeyed God by fathering a child with his servant Hagar. Isaac was the child of promise with his wife Sarah. Only after Sarah’s death did he marry again and father other children. All other children of Abraham were the ones that later lead Israel away from their Covenant with God. In the New Testament, the marriage mentioned most is the marriage between Christ (the Bridegroom) and his Church (the Bride). Marriage is also the model of God with Israel. Ancient Israel was guilty of spiritual adultery by going after other gods. This was the great indictment of the Old Testament prophets. Marriage is the chief theme of both Old and New Testament. The passage below is an indictment of Solomon and his foreign wives. Scripture in the Old Testament has little to say about polygamy but much about foreign wives leading men of the Covenant away from God to worshipping false gods. 1 King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh’s daughter—Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites. 2 They were from nations about which the LORD had told the Israelites, “You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.” Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love. 3 He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray 4 As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been. 5 He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molech the detestable god of the Ammonites. 6 So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the LORD; he did not follow the LORD completely, as David his father had done. 7 On a hill east of Jerusalem, Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable god of Moab, and for Molech the detestable god of the Ammonites. 8 He did the same for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and offered sacrifices to their gods. 9 The LORD became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. 10 Although he had forbidden Solomon to follow other gods, Solomon did not keep the LORD’s command. 11 So the LORD said to Solomon, “Since this is your attitude and you have not kept my covenant and my decrees, which I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates. 12 Nevertheless, for the sake of David your father, I will not do it during your lifetime. I will tear it out of the hand of your son. 13 Yet I will not tear the whole kingdom from him, but will give him one tribe for the sake1 of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem, which I have chosen.” I Kings 11: 1 – 13
In the 21st Century, we’ve heard a lot about the sanctity of marriage, as if that were something that has been around forever, but in reality the phrase was invented in 2004. Google it for yourself and see if you can find a single reference to the “sanctity of marriage” before the Massachusetts Supreme Court legalized same-sex unions in that state. The proverbial Sanctity of Marriage sprang into being because opponents of gay marriage needed a logical reason to overturn an established legal precedent. And the only thing that trumps the Constitution is God himself.
This is untrue. Quoting Google like this is a cheap rhetorical debate trick. This is called the “strawman fallacy”. The claim that traditional marriage is a recent invention is untrue. DEARLY beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the face of this congregation, to join together this Man and this Woman in holy Matrimony; which is an honourable estate, instituted of God in the time of man’s innocency, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church; which holy estate Christ adorned and beautified with his presence, and first miracle that he wrought, in Cana of Galilee; and is commended of Saint Paul to be honourable among all men: and therefore is not by any to be enterprised, nor taken in hand, unadvisedly, lightly, or wantonly, to satisfy men’s carnal lusts and appetites, like brute beasts that have no understanding; but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of God; duly considering the causes for which Matrimony was ordained. First, It was ordained for the procreation of children, to be brought up in the fear and nurture of the Lord, and to the praise of his holy Name. Secondly, It was ordained for a remedy against sin, and to avoid fornication; that such persons as have not the gift of continency might marry, and keep themselves undefiled members of Christ’s body. Thirdly, It was ordained for the mutual society, help, and comfort, that the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity. Into which holy estate these two persons present come now to be joined. Therefore if any man can shew any just cause, why they may not lawfully be joined together, let him now speak, or else hereafter for ever hold his peace.
Episcopal Prayer Book: The Form of Solemnization of Matrimony 1662
This is the service which my wife and I used when we were married.
Unfortunately, God is still pretty new to the whole marriage game (or he might have made an honest woman out of the Virgin Mary, am I right? Try the veal!)
Illustrative of how seriously the author takes the biblical record.
The truth is that marriage has always been more a secular tradition rather than a religious one.
Bald faced wopper. Up until the early Renaissance, in fact, couples were traditionally married on the church’s front doorstep, because wedding ceremonies were considered too vulgar to be performed inside the building: After all, there was implied sex in the vows and shameless public displays of affection. No clergyman in his right mind would have allowed such an unholy abomination on the premises. Contrary to both Scripture and tradition. Another argument without foundation.
But as times changed, ideas and attitudes about marriage also changed. So when people became religious, matrimony became holy. When people became nudists, clothing became optional. And so on throughout history.
The strawman liveth.
And the wonderful thing about the institution of marriage—the reason it has remained strong and relevant through thousands of years of ever-changing times—is its unique ability to change with those times.
The root of marriage is a man and woman starting a family, ways of celebrating that may change over time but they do not diminish the purpose or meaning of marriage. The author and those who agree with him have taken on this task.
Marriage is, and always has been, a constantly evolving tradition that never fails to incorporate the latest shifts in culture and climate, changing social habits, fashions and even fads. (Because, seriously, that chicken dance is not in the Bible.)
Thus, in the 1800s when the sole purpose of marriage was procreation and housekeeping, marriage between an older man and a hard-working tween girl was considered perfectly normal. Today we call it pedophilia.
Here is another cheap shot from someone who has no respect for marriage; once again using extremes to taint everyone that believes in marriage.
For thousands of years marriage was essentially a business transaction between the parents of the bride and groom. But in the last century or so, we’ve finally seen the triumph of this new-fangled notion that marriage should be about a loving relationship between two consenting adults.
The strawman again; also notice the ease of changing marriage from a loving couple to two consenting adults; talk about being stuck in the 1980’s. Author is trying to inject his opinion as a historic fact.
Followers of the Mormon faith can tell you that the traditions of their forefathers included a devout belief that polygamy was appropriate and sanctified. But modern Mormons generally don’t support that vision of happiness for their daughters.
Author clearly has no personal knowledge of Moron theology but is simply using one point of their belief to try furthering his argument.
And during the Civil Rights era, when opponents of interracial marriage tried to pass laws making such couples illegal, we came to realize that they, too, were wrong in trying to redefine marriage to prevent those newfound relationships.
This is the part where author starts to equate interracial marriage with homosexuality as a civil right. Skin color is different than behavior. Dr. King’s offspring also disagree with this equating of the two.
Always marriage has triumphed by becoming a timely celebration of our society, rather than a backlash against it. It’s strange, then, to see “tradition” used as a weapon against change, when change is the source of all its greatest traditions.
Marriage means whatever the author wants it to mean. We are now invoking situational ethics and moral relativity. Notice the sleight of hand, author earlier invokes the Bible and then dumps it when it gets in the way of his argument. No one is arguing that wedding traditions must become static, tradition in that sense is not the issue; it is the author trying to change the core meaning of marriage into something that it is not and has never been before in human history. In the sense that all law is religious, the author is advocating nothing less that removing the biblical God as the author and finisher of marriage and replacing him with one created in the image of the author. The end result of gay marriage is spiritual adultery and idolatry.
Just ask the white dress: In 1840, Queen Victoria of England married Prince Albert wearing a beautiful white lace dress—in defiance of tradition—in order to promote the sale of English lace! The image was so powerful that practically overnight the white wedding gown became de rigueur for the well-heeled bride. And then it became de rigueur for every bride.
By the dawn of the 20th Century, the white dress had also inexplicably come to symbolize chastity. (Even though blue was traditionally the color of virginity—“something borrowed, something blue…”)
Author now confuses fashion with passion. What does the color of the wedding dress have to do with marriage? It is not part of the central meaning of marriage. It is a cultural preference and peripheral to the entire issue. Dresses, candles, rings, rice, flowers and all the rest may be used to make the occasion special for the bride and groom but they are of secondary importance to the fact that a man and woman are vowing to begin a new family.
And the new equation of white with virginity eventually achieved such a rigid orthodoxy that older readers may remember a time when wedding guests who happened to know that the bride was not perfectly pure would have felt a moral obligation to demand that she change into something off-white before walking down the aisle.
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Romans 6: 23 These issues should be dealt with before a couple takes their vows. The ability to stay faithful to your wedding vows is the object of a focus on virginity. The issue of virginity harkens back to Christ and his Church and wedding traditions in the Bible of which the author has no knowledge. Because our society has lost this emphasis on saving yourself for marriage; fornication, adultery, STDs, teen pregnancy, abortion and a host of other societal ills have been unleashed. As you will see in the next section, the author has high praise for the idea of sex with no consequences.
Fortunately, as cultural norms eased during the Sexual Revolution, a sort of “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy took hold where all brides were required to wear white regardless of their virtue and the less said about it the better.
In recent years, as a generation of divorcees have remarried and a gene
ration of young people have entered wedlock with some degree of “experience”, the pretense of a connection between literal virginity and the bridal gown has become entirely obsolete. A colorful journey for a custom which has always seemed iron clad, even as it was evolving over time.
The sexual revolution devalued marriage; the author seems to view this as an improvement.
And not all traditions have to do with changing sexual standards. The long-time custom of pelting the newlyweds with birdseed did not exist before the 1970s when animal-lovers realized that songbirds were bloating on dried rice that they found on the ground after the former custom.
Economic times have caused families to rethink the age-old convention of the bride’s father paying for the entire ceremony—a last vestige of the days of dowries when a young man had to be bribed to take a free-loading daughter off her parents’ hands—that well-established custom has gradually given way to a more humane approach to sharing the financial burden.
The biblical model of the dowry was that the Groom would pay a dowry to the Bride, the opposite of this alleged expert. Had the author understood a biblical worldview, passages like Jesus saying “I go to prepare a place for you” and “no man know the hour but my Father in Heaven” would take on their obvious meaning because they hearken back to Christ as the Bridegroom and the Church as his Bride. Another lie put out as truth. There’s enough strawmen in this essay to start a forest fire.
Even religious traditions of marriage have experienced constant metamorphosis over the years. As more interfaith couples have wed, we have seen the emergence of multi-disciplinary ceremonies where couples have chosen not to follow the out-dated tradition of rejecting one or both of their faiths as a prerequisite of holy matrimony.
Sorry but Scripture has different values. 14 Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 15 What harmony is there between Christ and Belial ? What does a believer have in common with an unbelievers 16 What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” 17 “Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the LORD. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.” 18 “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the LORD Almighty.” II Corinthians 6: 14-18
One of the most beautiful weddings I ever attended was between a young Jewish fellow and his Catholic fiancé, whose mother was born in France. The ceremony was performed by both a rabbi and a priest with intertwining vows in English, Latin, Hebrew and French. A perfect expression of the union of their two families, yet one which would have been unthinkable just a generation before.
But, again, marriage has such a long history of changing with the ever-changing times, that the last thing we should expect from it is to stop growing and changing. We know today that marriage is not a rote ritual handed down by God to Adam & Eve and preserved verbatim for thousands of years.
Since author doesn’t believe in the authority of Scripture it is easy for him to dismiss it as mythology. It is, rather, an expression of how each community, each culture, and each faith, chooses to celebrate the joining of loved ones who have decided to make a life together. The author once again tries to circle back once again to moral relativism. The question on why “each community, each culture, and each faith” has a tradition of marriage is accepted without comment. The biblical explanation is that marriage was established in the beginning by God and since we have a common ancestor it only makes sense that we would share a common tradition with variations reflecting our various human cultures.
Christians do not expect Jesus to be central to a Buddhist wedding, nor do Jews refuse to acknowledge Lutheran unions because they didn’t include a reading from the Torah. Marriage is what we each make of it. And that’s the way it always should be.
The biblical norm of marriage is presented in Scripture as for all and is not limited to any faith or denomination. Marriage—how ever distorted the imagery—occurs in virtually every culture in the world. The author again acknowledges this while rejecting the obvious reason.
Perhaps the greatest irony of the traditional marriage argument is that it seeks to preserve a singular tradition that has, in fact, never existed at any point in history.
If marriage means nothing then why is the author hell-bent on making the case that gays need to be able to marry? Marriage truly means something and clearly the author needs to have gay marriage to validate his lifestyle. Instead of conforming to the requirements of marriage, the author is flushing all of human history and substituting something else in place of marriage. You can put all the lipstick you want on that pig but it can never truly be marriage.
Because, honestly, which traditional definition of marriage do we want our Constitution to protect?
We’re off to see the Wizard… Here is the final parade of the leading strawmen.
…The one from Book of Genesis when family values meant multiple wives and concubines?
…Or the marriages of the Middle Ages when women were traded like cattle and weddings were too bawdy for church?
…Since this is America, should we preserve marriage as it existed in 1776 when arranged marriages were still commonplace?
…Or the traditions of 1850 when California became a state and marriage was customarily between one man and one woman-or-girl of age 11 and up?
…Or are we really seeking to protect a more modern vision of traditional marriage, say from the 1950s when it was illegal for whites to wed blacks or Hispanics?
…Or the traditional marriage of the late 1960s when couples were routinely excommunicated for marrying outside their faith?
The author’s examples above all have one thing in common; a man is marrying a woman to form a family. Supporters of marriage do not have to agree with the particulars of each example cited, whether they are historically accurate or urban legends, a man and woman leave their families, “become one flesh” and form a new family unit.
No, the truth of the matter is, that we’re trying to preserve traditional marriage the way it “was and always has been” during a very narrow period in the late 70s / early 80s – just before most of us found out that gays even existed: Between one man and one woman of legal age and willing consent. Regardless of race or religion (within reason). Plus the chicken dance and the birdseed. Those are okay.
But there’s something profoundly disturbing about amending the Constitution to define anything about the 1970s as “the way God intended it.”
One last fallacy to end the essay.